May 18, 2006

A Play A Day #35

Stage Work

The Actor
The Worker

Simple set, except for an elevated platform upstage. The actor is in the middle of a very serious one-man show, talking as the lights come up on him.

Actor: ...but we never knew why he left. It might have been Benny's words; it might have been my silence. By the time the three of us finally stopped shaking from fear that John's departure would mean the end of the road for all of us, we were a directionless mess... We were the remaining three wheels on the car... but it was worse than that... we had lost the steering wheel... and the gas... and (loud lawnmower starting up sound, the engine almost catches, this startles and throws Actor, who struggles to go on) and... ummm... we were not even sure if we could (lawnmower almost starts again, very concerned) ... sure if we... if we... (third times a charm, lawn mower starts up, after a short pause, a lawnmower appears being pushed by a man in work clothes and with noise-cancelling earphones on. It is the Worker. He begins to mow the stage. Actor is horribly embarrassed, doesn't know what to do, walks to side of Worker and taps him on the shoulder. Worker looks at Actor, big smile. Actor tries shouting over the lawnmower) Can you please turn that off!!?

Worker: What!?

A: (making motions to indicate taking off the headphones and stop the lawnmower) Turn it off! I'm trying to (mower cuts out, Actor continues shouting for a couple words) do my one-man show here! (coughs to cover his shouting)

W: (taking off headphones) What? Sorry, missed that.

A: (with subtle motions to audience, stage whisper) I'm trying to perform here. I'm acting.

W: (looking at audience) Oh, yeah. Yeah, sure, I see that! Neat!

A: (he's not getting it?) Ummm... can you please take the lawnmower off stage? I can't act with that thing running. No one can hear anything I'm saying.

W: I'm almost through. It's not a very large stage.

A: (great confusion) But... why... ummm... well, you're mowing a stage!

W: Yeah.

A: There's no grass.

W: I'll be the judge of that.

A: There isn't! So, why...

W: Work order.

A: O.K. Can you just take this off stage now?

W: (taking out paper) See, right there? "Mow the stage." Today's date right on top.

A: It's 9 p.m., on a Saturday... why...

W: Overtime.

A: But it's dark out!

W: Yeah, sure. That's why I started on the inside jobs first. Plenty of light here.

A: O.K.... sure.. sure... can you (indicating off stage) now?

W: Right, sure.

A: Thank you.

(W leaves with mower. A goes to front of stage again, apologizes to audience, does transformation breaths to speed himself back into character, backs up a bit in his text and begins)

A: ...but it was worse than that, we had lost our steering (very loud noise backstage, another chain is being pulled, this time, as W steps back onstage with ear pads, safety goggles and work gloves, it is a chainsaw. He pulls cord again, and it starts right up, he walks to a support beam on the back part of the set, lines up his cut and then A grabs his arm. W jerks backward, nearly decapitating himself. He stops chainsaw, puts it down very quickly, throws off his gloves, and ear pads. He is clearly pissed off.)

W: What!? What the hell?!

A: What are you doing?!

W: (over A) Never! Never grab a man preparing to make a cut! How dumb are you!? Damnit! Nearly cut off my friggin' head! You idiot! You grabbed my arm too! Jesus!

A: You can't be here!

W: Not if I want to survive, not around a moron like you!

A: Look, I'm sorry.

W: You better be. Idiot.

A: Remember, I'm doing a show? Remember?

W: Listen. I've got a lot of work to do. (pulls out more order slips)

A: I see that, but... I... why were you cutting down my set?

W: Just trimming some low-hanging branches.

A: It's not a branch.

W: I'll be the judge of that!

A: No. It's part of my set! It's a 2-by-4!

W: So?

A: So?

W: Yeah, so?

A: So... don't cut it down!

W: Whatever. You'll talk to the bossman then?

A: Yes, sure, just please go! Take the chainsaw! Go!

W: Fine... (walking off with his gear, mumbles) friggin' idiot.

(A goes back to front of stage, looking off stage many times. He apologizes profusely. Does some breaths; finds himself, opens his mouth and a loud roar is heard off stage. W walks on with ear pads, goggles and a large leaf blower, dust flies up everywhere. A is in shock. He stares dumbfounded. Then he walks right in front of W and grabs the leafblower with great hostility. A starts shouting, anything, we can't really hear him. W yells back, we can't hear him. They stand off. W slowly reaches down and turns off the leafblower)

W: What's up, ace? Want a blow job?

A: (with barely-restrained fury) What are you doing!!?

W: (patronizingly indicating leaf blower) Leaf blower. Blowing leaves. (makes whooshing sound and smiling)

A: There are no damn leaves on this stage!

W: I'll be the judge of that.

A: Just like there are no low-hanging branches, and there sure as hell isn't any grass!!

W: We've covered this.

A: Out! You've destroyed my play! I can't recover from this!

W: Not with an attitude like that you can't... it can't be that hard.

A: What?!!

W: C'mon, I'll watch from here. You can do it. What's your character's spine?

A: (genuinely surprised at this question) What?

W: Your character; what's he playing throughout? You know, his spine?

A: Ummm... indecisiveness.

W: Good one.

A: And confusion.

W: Nah! Play one. I'd recommend indecisiveness. Confusion follows naturally from that.

A: But it's a different type of confusion...

W: Trust me, pal, find the indecisiveness. Your basic audience member is going to relate to that much better.

A: What do you know about audience members?

W: Listen. They're waiting for you. You play it, or I'm going to do it.

A: What?

W: You haven't lost them yet. Go get'em!

A: But...

W: C'mon, now... go... go...

A: (Turning around, apologizing profusely, breathing, breathing, looking behind him at W several times. W has sat on part of the set with his leaf blower and gear. He makes no effort to sit or move quietly, however. A starts tentatively, but picks up steam) By the time the three of us finally stopped shaking from fear that John's departure would mean the end of the road for all of us, we were a directionless mess... We were the remaining three wheels on the car... but it was worse than that... we had lost the steering wheel... and the gas... and we were not even sure we could find the road. All that we had worked for, all the time, all thhe camradarie... we knew everything about each other, we were closer than quadruplets. Now, no John... no life force. Five years? How do you throw away five years? (W takes out a small bag of chips and can of soda from his pockets, makes no effort to hide the very loud noises as he opens both and starts eating, A turns toward him, W gives him a thumbs-up and nod of encouragement)

W: Keep going; it's really quite good.

(A, resigns himself to this state of affairs, turns back around and continues, W keeps eating chips and slurping soda)

A: (Lights fade out over this line) I was the new leader. Five years of watching John lead us. I had learned enough, right? It couldn't be that hard.

(lights out, loud chip chewing and a burp from W)


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